What’s the Condition? with Spencer Montcalm
What’s in a condition report? Learn more from this interview with Spencer Montcalm: the curator and conservator of our exhibition Restored Treasures, Part 1!
What are condition reports? Why are they important?
Sometimes conservators do condition reports on artworks that are coming in for an exhibition — so artworks that the Art Gallery of Windsor doesn’t own, but we want to display for an exhibition.
Condition reports are very important. They’re done at many times during an artwork’s life. And it’s basically a continued physical history of the work. The really important ones for the Art Gallery of Windsor are a condition report when the artwork comes into the building, and then a condition report right before it leaves. The two reports document the condition of the artwork, and that way we can track whether something has happened to it during the exhibition. When we get works from an institution, typically they send a condition report along with the work. So in that scenario, I’m tasked with making sure the work hasn’t changed in any way and noting any changes if there are some.
What are you looking for in a condition report?
I’m just looking for anything that’s out of the ordinary. So looking for dirty areas or scratches, anything like that. And I can also use my tape measure to know where damage is on the artwork. So if you think about it, if you go back to math class and you have, like, a coordinate plane you can use, I can map out damages on that coordinate plane and make notes.
What happens if an artwork arrives and it is damaged?
If something arrives to the art gallery and there’s damage that wasn’t noted on a previous condition report, there’s two courses of action. One, I decide if it’s if it’s extremely necessary or it’s or it’s harmful to the object right now. If that’s the case, then it needs to be stabilized right away. So it puts in a chain reaction where I talk to the registrar and the registrar reaches out to the artists. If the artist owns the work or they talk to the owner, then we make a plan from there on how to deal with the damage.
If it’s something very, very minor — sometimes like a scratch on the frame is considered a very minor damage — usually you just note it in the condition report and you just proceed as normal.
How do the artworks look?
These works all look in very good condition. There’s nothing substantial to note to need to bring to the attention of the owners. So I invite you to come see them in the show Crip Ecologies: Vulnerable Bodies in a Toxic Landscape, now on at the Art Gallery of Windsor!